Underground Magazine, October 1987 Issue Seven
The Wedding Present release their first album, George Best, after a string of live successes, numerous radio sessions and a string of highly acclaimed singles. Vocalist and swash-buckling guitar player David Gedge, dials in for an earful of probing conversation with Dave Henderson. Let the inquest begin!
Dave Gedge is a talkative chap...and a thoughtful one at that. The telephone line crackles at times, making his enthusiasm run into a sea of words, as he gushes with stories of The Wedding Present's debut album, which they've lovingly titled George Best. But more of that later. First let's go through the Gedge diaries and get to grips with The Wedding Present back catalogue., their slow but assured rise to album band status, and their other lives and loves. First the singles...Go Out And Get 'Em Boy!
- Go Out And Get 'Em Boy
"We wanted to make that a real statement, we'd sort of burst onto a scene when a lot of things were happening...you know like the Bodines and the Creation bands, Age Of Chance, too. At that point there seemed to be lots of good new bands arriving and we wanted to make a pretty extreme record, give it an extreme production without being pretentious. As a song, looking back, it's still alright, it still stands up."
- Once More
"We thought about this one, we intentionally tried to make it different from the first single, sort of show that we had some versatility, but really it's the one I'm least happy with - even though it still goes down really well live. I think it was like a clichéd rock song in a way. It's not really representative of The Wedding Present."
- This Boy Can Wait
"This is one of my favourites, it's the one that really brought about our trademark of the fast guitar sound. It was supposed to be a double A side, but we didn't really have the budget to do the B side properly. It sort of sounds like you're playing it with a 15 year old needle. It embarrasses me when people play it in clubs too, the sound is so bad."
- My Favourite Dress
"My Favourite Dress is on the album and it created a lot of interest in us when it came out as a single. But in the end it came to nothing. Several big labels were supposedly interested, but in retrospect I'm really glad we kept our independence and stuck to the road we were on."
In addition to these four classic silvers of rampaging pop music - for the uninitiated, the closest marker to The Wedding Present's sound is a frantic interaction fusing high speed guitar, a throbbing rhythm section and bleeding heart vocals, like Edwyn Collins playing Gang Of Four - the Pressies have already racked up three Peel sessions, a Janice Long session and an Andy Kershaw session.
The first two singles have been combined on a 12 inch and Strange Fruit have released one of the Peel sessions with plans in hand to release the group's Janice Long session.
"I think the Janice Long session was my favourite for the BBC, although they've all been enjoyable. The one on Strange Fruit obviously spread our reputation, as it was one of the label's early releases..."
And the group's cover version of Orange Juice's Felicity from that session became a talking point and rekindled a few memories. In fact the group have covered a couple more noetworthy epics in their time (showing their skeletons early on).
"Yeah, we did Felicity because we're all big Orange Juice fans. I still really like them, whenever I'm down I can just put on their first LP and it cheers me up. We also did Gang Of Four's Essence Rare - that was Shaun, our drummer's choice - and on the album's cassette and CD version there's a cover of Girl's At Our Best's Nowhere Fast. I think they're my favourite group of all time, well for this week anyway, they just wrote such perfect pop songs, you know? They sang them in real English accents and talked about things like walking along the Champs E'lysee."
Any plans for other covers?
"We're thinking about Blondie's Presence Dear at some point."
Now, that should be interesting.
Aha...Love of music; a democratic band, The Wedding Present exploiting their Englishness, revealing their roots. But Dave, who are the other WPs? Introduce them, please.
"Keith has been a close friend for some time, he's very shy, if he was on the other end of this phone you wouldn't get much out of him. He's really talented, but he has to be driven to do things, like write bass lines."
"He's a lot louder. His heart's in the right place and he's really honest. So much so, in fact, that he'll change sides in an argument half way through, or change his mind mid question.."
"He's only got about three records. he's more interested in football. He's the kind of bloke who'd spend £40 to go and see Leeds play in Brighton, which is strange, because he's from Manchester."
Yep, a motley crew, with Dave Gedge on guitar and vocals. The Wedding Present, this is your interview. So, tell us about the album.
Why's it called George Best? A flawed masterpiece? A talent gone askew?
"Well, it just seemed like a good idea. George Best summed up the spirit of a time when things were happening, things were important. He's a legendary figure, a kind of celebrity from a time gone by. I never thought that a week after we'd finish the record we'd be taken our picture with him."
And what did he think of it?
"He was pretty good about it all. He didn't really know what to make of it."
So what do you make of it, now that it's ready to roll in every format known to man?
"That's really difficult to say, I'm too close to it."
Well, I'll tell you, Dave, it's real good. It takes a bit of getting into, the whirling guitar won't make it easy for pseudo-yuppies to understand, but once inside, the noise is more than fine. And the words? Like real life!
"I suppose they are taken from real life experiences, things that have happened, but you have to add snatches of this and that, interesting bits you've heard to make it more singable. The way I sing means it's got to be written in a kind of conversational style too."
And the northern twang? Is that straight from a Smiths-aligned love of Rita Tushingham and other such black and white film stories?
"No, more likely it's from Coronation Street."
So, is there insecurity there in the lyrics? The way the songs are orchestrated with those clashing guitars it sometimes makes the spoken word difficult to follow. Are you hiding in there?
"In a way, I suppose. There's a certain degree of insecurity in the lyrics. I suppose the guitar is there to supplement what's being said."
And how does that affect your audience?
"The thrashing guitar has put some people off, it's agressive and boisterous and as we've gone on, got bigger, I've noticed that we've been getting less and less girls at our live shows and that's a shame as I'd like to think that we play pop music for everyone."
But it does seem that success is coming The Wedding Present's way (whether it be male dominated or not). George Best is a classy album, tinged with heartfelt pop, supported by bolshy playing and there may even be the odd pop song there too.
So, despite no big deal (and long term pension plan) as yet, do you think this album will force you into one, or aren't you that bothered?
"I don't think we are. We've been looked after really well by our manufacturors and distributors Red Rhino, they've invested in us, given us all that we wanted, and the contract we have is all in our favour. We're earning enough now that we don't have to be on the dole. It's not a brilliant living, but at least we're progressing in the right way, and we've also seen how so many other groups have failed when they've gone to bigger labels."
So do you think you'll still be doing it all in ten years time?
"I don't know. Pop music has such a limited appeal, and I've got a short concentration span, I'll probably get so bored I'll just give it up eventually."
So you don't see The Wedding Present on the cabaret circuit next century?
"No, not really."
In a way I'm kind of glad. At least this way they'll churn and grind out their evocative pop for some time to come, providing records as uplifting as Orange Juice's first along the way. Enjoy!